When Jane Eyre was published in the late 1840's, the literary form of the novel had only been in existence for about 80 years, and it can trace its literary ancestry directly to the novel Pamela, which first told the story of the trials of a young woman servant in late 18th century England.
What's interesting to note about Jane Eyre is her transformation and transcendence at each stage in the novel -- from one estate or hall to another -- until she comes to define her own space and environment at the novel's end. The descriptions of the various environments she travels through, along with some of the "supernatural" events that occur define the work as a "Gothic Romance."
1. Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman, a character-education novel, tracing through the life journey of an individual.
2. The central theme is identity development both psychically and socially.
3. Gender is another key point in the novel. Especially in recent times, the novel has been made a subject of diverse feminist critical approaches. While, on the one hand, it is often seen as a feminist text, championing a woman's struggle, her writing of her own destiny and a success story at that, on the other, Jane's (though appropriative, where she dominates) marriage to Rochester is seen as a point of submission to patriarchy.
4. Post-colonial angles are also operative in the novel, in the marginalization of the Black woman Bertha Mason. She has to turn insane, as it were for the White woman to succeed. This is a point well made by Gayatri Chakroborty Spivak. The dingy portrayal of India, in the words of Rivers and reflected by Jane is yet another colonial image.
5. There are elements of Romance in the novel, especially of a Gothic nature in the Thornfield Hall section.
6. There is the theme of a Christian civilizing mission in the form of Rivers--yet another patriarchal lure for the woman, the lure of greatness.
7. The role of nature in the novel..divinity..super-naturalism